Posts Tagged ‘www.voicesandvisions.com’

NYC Bar Association Panel: From Lawyer to Entrepreneur

December 19, 2013

One of the most fun aspects about being an entrepreneur is the opportunity to live in a number of different and challenging roles on a daily basis.

Some hours each day I am a producer of corporate video productions and documentaries, figuring out and implementing countless logistics of a broad range of projects. Other hours I am a writer, crafting the scripts and storyboards on which the productions are built. Sometimes I am a researcher, diving into the substance of clients’ businesses to ensure that the videos we are creating accurately reflect the nature of the organizations. Importantly, I am often the head of marketing and sales, seeking prospective clients to keep the business engine humming. Whenever I find a few free moments, I become the chief dreamer, configuring new ideas to improve or change my current businesses – or create new ones. And of course, I’m also the “baker and candlestick maker” (never a butcher – I’m a vegetarian!) for all the behind-the-scenes details that make the businesses run.

A break during a documentary shoot in Paris

Equally as exciting for me, last week I had the opportunity to put on my “entrepreneur” hat and speak on a panel at the NYC Bar Association (NYCBA) entitled “Lawyer to Entrepreneur.” The forum, organized by Emilia Roll of the NYCBA’s Career Advancement and Management Committee, was billed as an opportunity to “Come and learn from successful entrepreneurs about their paths from practicing law to running their own businesses and how they are using their ‘lawyer’ skills to advance.”

I am very lucky to love all the hats I wear, and the entrepreneurial one is at the top of the list. I have been a part of a number of entrepreneurial groups with different foci, and I almost always find that the commonalities between entrepreneurs outweigh huge differences in industries, markets, and strategies. There are unstated understandings, shared experiences and generous support systems that fuel the passion to take multiple business endeavors to the ever-next level.

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NYC Bar Association

That was certainly the experience for me on the panel last week. I was privileged to be joined by George Tsiatis of Group 113 and The Resolution Project, Rosena Sammi of Rosena Sammi Jewelry, Diana St. Louis of Bijte, Brian Trunzo of Carson Street Clothiers, and Suzie Scanlon of Bliss Lawyers. As I answered questions relating to the benefits of having a legal background as a jumping off point to becoming a businessperson/producer/writer/researcher/marketer/dreamer/baker/candlestick maker, it was inspirational to hear about my co-panelists’ paths, businesses, challenges, solutions, and ideas. It was also exciting to engage in discussions with an audience of lawyers poised on the verge of considering their business dreams. The experience was a reminder of the journey taken thus far, the never-ending possibilities offered by the entrepreneurial road, and the value of enjoying every step along the way.

Now back to a producer review of the latest draft video for a private equity client…

On the Road Again…in Bonn, Germany

September 7, 2013

I don’t have favorites, never have. I’ve always found confusing questions like: “What is your favorite color?”  — I like all the colors of the rainbow and the hues in between. Same thing when people ask me my favorite places to travel. My husband Curt Fissel — who is a director of photography and my business partner – and I (a producer/writer) are constantly on the global go for corporate video production and documentary shoots, but I don’t have a favorite destination.  There are aspects of each place I appreciate, so I thought I would write some blogs from the road, elaborating on things that make me smile in different locales.

 

Last week we were in Germany, videotaping for a private equity client that had just sold a company in its European portfolio and wanted us to produce a video highlighting the corporation and its impressive success over the holding period. When we finished all the field production relevant to producing a top line video, we took a few days to ourselves, visiting close friends who live in Bonn.

 

Enjoying sunny days with temperatures in the mid-70s, everyone we met told us that the winter there had lasted until the end of July. In fact, the past year in northern Europe has been exceptionally and uncharacteristically cold, snowy and rainy – much worse than usual. Curt and I had been well aware of that. We’ve been working on a project in Normandy, France for the past few years, and Rouen is listed in his phone’s weather app. Every morning since last mid-September we have had the same conversation:

 

Curt (checking weather in various locations we frequent): “Rouen: 50 degrees and raining.”

 

Me: “OMG. I’d feel so depressed.”

 

Yet that was not the weather that greeted us in Bonn last week, after the late spring climate had finally arrived on the cusp of July meeting August, and we had the chance to frolic in a few of the country’s attractions.

 

One of my favorite activities in Bad Godesberg, the little hamlet where our friends live, is jogging on the pathway that contours the Rhine.  Settled into rising hilltops along this segment of the majestic river are ruins of once-imposing castles. The age-old strongholds still convey a bygone aura of feudal importance, overlooking through cataract-type vision the goings-on of the world at their feet. Sightseeing cruises and cargo ships pass me as I run, reminders that the countryside’s natural counterparts (e.g., the river) run timelessly.

 

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Later in the day we all hop on board a train that also travels along the Rhine’s path. Whisking us south about 35 km., we get out in the village of Ahrweiler to partake in a winefest. Yes, you read it correctly: A winefest in Germany. Formerly not known as a serious competitor in the world of quality wine, this region has joined many others worldwide in improving its reputation, with impressive results. The vineyards in the Ahr Valley – known for its red wines — sit on 45 degree angles sloping up the sides of the Rhine. The fruits of the vines were exhibited in booths lining Ahrweiler’s main square, which framed the festival and the events taking place inside. An old-fashioned German brass band blared music to the much-anticipated annual election of a Wine Queen. A few speeches later, the coronation took place, after which the new queen was greeted by throngs of happy villagers holding bottles of locally grown Pinots and Rieslings. The year was 2013, of course, but it could have been 1913 or 1713. Unlike the physical castle structures along my morning jogging path, these old customs have survived in tact.

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Of course, even traditions are affected by change over time. Prior to World War II Ahrweiler had a small Jewish community. Apparently, the town was known as Nazi-resistant, but its Jews could not escape the Holocaust’s engine of death. No survivors ever returned to Ahrweiler. Significantly, however, the town has preserved the old synagogue, which is today used for cultural events. Curt and I, who have produced a number of documentaries on Jewish-related subjects, always visit these sites of former Jewish life in Europe. In Ahrweiler, our friends accompanied us to the former synagogue. We spent a few moments meditating in the atmosphere, listening to the voices in the wind and in our hearts, pledging anew to work to stamp out evil somehow, and experiencing gratitude for the energy of good people who remember, confront and commemorate.

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The next evening we visit a biergarten, the classically German hangout for the classically German drink. It’s as fun today as it was decades ago to sit at the tables covered with red and white-checkered cloths, surrounded by people drinking tall glasses of amber-colored beer with impressive white foam tops, toasting and celebrating everything always. (But in my opinion, with all the delicious craft beers available in the US today, the opportunity to imbibe the German selections are no longer the highlight of the biergarten experience.)

 

Back in Santa Monica, CA, I am working with some friends on an emerging project, www.EnjoyYourCoffee.net, which aims to be a travel website for coffee lovers around the world. Our Coffee Travel page lists good spots for coffee and conversation, beneficial for travelers to the region. Our group is trying to bolster the list of places worldwide, so wherever I travel, I try to visit the most popular cafes and add them to the list. In Bad Godesberg, my friends’ son Lorenz brought me to Café Lindentraum. The cappuccino was high quality and the atmosphere was quaint, but the conversations at each of the small tables were quiet and private (i.e., not group conversational). That’s a reflection of the culture, Lorenz told me. The same was true when I jogged along the Rhine: In many places where I have been, joggers passing each other share waves and smiles. Sometimes there’s even a “hello” attached in one language or another. Not here. It would be unfair to call it UNfriendly; it’s just not the nature of the culture to open up to strangers. In contrast, at the dinner party our friends hosted one night, we enjoyed conversations that quickly dove into interesting analyses.

 

I felt sad the morning of our departure. We had an amazing time with our friends. Their street fair was to happen that day, everyone on the block was cooking up something special to contribute, and the sun promised to continue shining. Anticipating the day’s events based on past years’ experiences, we were told that the young kids would run around and play together and the elders among the group would regale newcomers with stories that stretch back over decades.

 

Past, present and future live side by side there and find a way to communicate through the ups and downs of nature, time, governments, and people. And industrial and technological advancements whisk us across nine time zones and back to Los Angeles in about 11 hours so we can enjoy our coffee with our friends in Santa Monica a few hours after the fair has been cleaned up on our friends’ street in Bad Godesberg.

 

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 13

December 15, 2011

Video Testimonial for Publications

Like so many other videos we have produced in the last few years, the one I am about to discuss happened as a footnote to the primary videotaping goal, yet ultimately has become a great tool in the box of information the client wants to market.

As discussed in yesterday’s blog, we videotaped this year’s annual Private Equity International (PEI) Investor Relations & Communications Forum (IRCF) held in New York. PEI is an independent worldwide financial information group focused on the alternative asset classes of private equity, real estate and infrastructure. In addition to organizing 24 important global conferences on topics related to PEI’s focus (like the IRCF), the organization publishes five internationally-recognized magazines and five news websites, manages extensive databases, and publishes more than 25 specialist books and directories.

The initial videotaping goal was to capture as much good footage of the event and  enough quotes from a number of participants discussing why they attend and how it stands out in the industry to produce a short video about the Forum. As the concept grew in pre-production, it was recognized that the interviewees could also discuss the value they get from subscribing to and reading PEI publications. Since there was little b-roll to use to embellish that story and complicated motion graphics were not on the agenda of this production, we ensured that we captured very succinct, thorough and articulate sound bites so that we could keep respondents’ faces on screen for most of the length of their sound bites without needing to cut minor speech insertions. We asked questions in a number of ways until we got the sound bites we wanted – in terms of content and transmission style. We made a simple motion graphic using pages of one of the organization’s magazines. Here is the final edited video:

In essence, this is a testimonial video applauding PEI’s outstanding publications. Just under one minute in length, the video stands a good chance of being watched by even the busiest of industry professionals who find it online. By separating out the message about the publications from the message about the conference, the viewer gets clear information about both subjects. And with impressive sound bites from known and respected thought leaders, PEI should be getting ready to increase its subscription base.

 

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 12

December 14, 2011

Video Highlights of Conferences

Conferences are very important to organizers for many reasons: They establish reputation in the industry by bringing together impressive speakers, they convey information that is appreciated by attendees, and they often bring in profit. They also cost a lot of money to execute, so producers carry a burden of ensuring the success of the objectives, which includes incentivizing attendees and others to return for future events.

Enter another benefit of corporate video production! While the presence of some photos and a few quotes on a web page lauding a forum are advisable, a video portraying real speakers and scenes can transport the viewer to the event, underscoring the value of participation in a way that no other media can accomplish.

Example: Private Equity International (PEI) prides itself in providing “alternative insight.” Through its numerous publications and global conferences and training sessions, PEI offers authoritative, informative and useful content covering issues in the alternative asset classes of private equity, infrastructure, real estate, and real assets.

One of the important conferences PEI spearheads each year is its Investor Relations & Communications Forum held in New York, which our corporate video production company Voices & Visions was asked to videotape, then edit into a production for PEI to showcase to prospective attendees via its website and other online sites. The video captured background shots of a number of sessions, the ample networking opportunities, the amiable spirit that characterized the atmosphere, and many interviews with session leaders and participants discussing the unique benefits of this event. PEI hoped the video would attract two audiences: those specifically focused on next year’s event on this topic and viewers with more general interests for whom the video can provide insight into the value of all the conferences and training sessions PEI spearheads.

In addition to posting the video on multiple online locations, PEI will need to use social media and other outlets to let its audiences know about the video and where they can access it so that it does its intended job. That aspect of the campaign goes to marketing strategies – a story for a different blog! From the corporate video production end, PEI has distinguished itself by highlighting the value that its events convey through enabling interested folks to peek into the virtual window of one of their important annual conferences.

 

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 11

December 13, 2011

Another way a Corporate Video Client Utilized the Documentary Genre

Yesterday I talked about a client who came to us anew with a documentary in hand that still needed a good amount of editing. Today I want to focus on a long-time client that recognized the value that a short documentary might bring.

Here’s how it started: A nonprofit staffed with creative folks had the idea to sponsor a three-day bike-a-thon along the Jersey Shore in honor of the birthday of one of its staff members. It was a last-minute idea which they shared with friends. Unfortunately, it was so last minute that only a handful of people agreed to participate, with each raising funds from supporters for the organization.

Having a fundraiser unbeknownst to an audience of funders is not a particularly promising formula, which is where the idea of a documentary arose. We sent two cameras to follow the bike riders in a shooting style that was reminiscent of reality TV shows. Our cameras were perched on the open window of our car driving adjacent to the bikers; they were sitting on tripods that had been positioned before the arrival of the bikers in specific spots as well as set to capture shots that were tracking them from behind. We had hand-held shots from every different angle and even miniature cameras attached to bicycles. At the end of each day we interviewed the bikers about the experience, why they chose to participate, and the importance of the cause.

We wove the story together chronologically, replete with little dramas that unfolded, like a flat tire in the middle of a huge rainstorm. We created a 15-minute documentary that was fun to watch but also packed with information, albeit in a subtle way, about the value of the nonprofit that motivated the event.

Our client used the film for internal fundraising purposes as well as to generate interest in future trips. Based on other experiences we have had, we imagine they would have had success at some local film festivals in the “short documentary” category, but their limited resources precluded them from diving into those time-consuming waters. At the very least, the fundraiser reached a lot more ears and hearts than those of the small number of riders and their supporters. With all the fun that potential bike riders learned they missed, I’m guessing the next such event will be sold out!

 

 

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 9

December 9, 2011

Last in the series of nonprofit video productions that I have written about this week, today’s blog is not accompanied by video because it focuses on a client who runs a battered women’s shelter. This is a sticky area for video: Always reliant on substantial funding, organizations like this require video to make emotionally moving points, yet ensuring the absolute privacy of their beneficiaries is paramount. Our video production company was delighted to have the challenge of aligning these seemingly contradictory needs.

We advised the client to focus solely on the stories of three of their clients. We understood that the video would have impact if viewers got wrapped up in the unfolding of events as told by the women who underwent them. No statement by an executive of the organization telling viewers in a third party way about their clients’ tales of violence or directly making a pitch for funding would be nearly as effective as hearing the obvious needs from the victims.

Finding the spokeswomen, of course, was up to our client. They opted for two women who had already had successful outcomes in their experiences with the organization and were now on their own as well as a third who was newly admitted to the shelter. The first two were comfortable being seen on camera with the understanding that the video would only be screened to a select group of donors. They were extremely grateful for the help they had received and felt that they would have talked to the contributors in person if asked, so video was a natural extension. The third woman wanted to remain anonymous. For the purposes of the production, however, we did not want the screen to simply be black while viewers listened to her voice. Rather, we interviewed her in a room that we set up with bare lighting that put her in a dark shadow, completely unrecognizable. We knew that in the final video we edited, the viewer would be able to see some movement as she moved her arms, for instance. It would be enough to keep an audience fixated on the screen at the same time as they heard her relate the frightening circumstances that had given rise to her decision to reach out to the shelter. Indeed, the shadowy backdrop would add to the drama of her story.

We were also cognizant that for this video to be successful, we would need the women to open themselves up in emotionally challenging ways — on camera! It is a complex art of interviewing to get beyond the superficialities of a first meeting in a short time and dive so deeply into a person’s heart that she (in this case) feels comfortable enough to reveal some of her most vulnerable memories. That was the task before us, for which we are able to lean on our vast experience in documentary production around the world interviewing a broad range of people in different cultures who confront countless types of situations. Yet every situation, every person, is different. Sometimes the right approach is difficult to gauge. Particularly in situations like these, each person must be treated tenderly and empathetically; at the same time, we need to be focused constantly on getting the sound bites and eliciting the emotions that will be effective in the final script and expressed in a way that will ensure smooth cuts in the editing stage.

The video we ultimately created had three segments of under two minutes each, one segment for each of the women. The opening faded from black to the name of the first woman the client wanted to highlight. Dissolving out of the black to a close-up of her face, the viewer was able to see the intensity of her eyes as her story unraveled. At its end, the screen again went to black, then immediately up to the name of the second woman, with the same pattern for the third, whose identity was written in an anonymous way. Some necessary cuts to accomplish the storytelling succinctly yet passionately required b-roll cover-up with the two women who agreed to be seen on camera. We were able to videotape a small amount of b-roll after each interview, and they provided us with a few personal photos to use. Cuts with the woman cast in shadows did not require b-roll cover; the dissolves between shots were so subtle that they were unrecognizable, and the viewer stayed focused on the scary screen image.

We received excellent reports from our client about the effectiveness of this fundraising video after they screened it privately to their select group of prospective donors. We are confident that it was successful, since a few weeks later, a member of that group called us for a quote for another organization with which she was involved!

 

 

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 8

December 8, 2011

Nonprofits with budgets for annual events too small to work on high-end professional video productions are not precluded from using video to enhance their causes. Indeed, many types of creative and affordable productions can be crafted that have strong impact, and there are few tools as powerful to achieve that result as video.

Recently a nonprofit client approached our corporate video production company a few weeks before its gala. The event was to be relatively small, and costs were an issue. One of the projects in which the organization had been involved over the past year was a joint choir with children from both its suburban membership and an inner city school. The interaction of the kids, conveyed through their beautiful voices singing in unison, was an extremely powerful expression of the values of the two organizations.

While a performance of the choir at the gala would have been ideal, it was not logistically possible for all the folks who would have been required to be present. Consequently, our client organized a performance one day after school and requested that we videotape a single song carrying a significant message.

Even with the set-up and breakdown of the lighting, microphones, and cameras, the shoot was only a half-day. V&V used two cameras, but kept one as a wide shot sitting on a tripod so that only one cinematographer was required with no other crew members. The presentation was repeated several times, ensuring that we would be able to use different sets of shots (close, wide, steady, moving, looking up, looking down) in the editing.

The final nonprofit video production was very moving. While the performance was only two minutes in length, the editor ensured the visuals change between the various shots, moving from broad sweeps of sweet, diverse faces to close-ups of eyes and lips, singling with passion. The strong harmonies fill the spaces into which they are projected, and the sound of music is the only audio throughout the film except hearing the kids greeting each other as the credits roll. Nothing more needed to be shown at the gala. The children’s beautiful voices said everything without the need to add talking heads to interpret or insert extraneous information veering the audience away from the impactful moment. The client accomplished its goal without breaking its budget.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 6

December 6, 2011

Continuing this week’s theme of blogs about nonprofits for which we have created video productions over the past several months, I now turn to a local NJ affiliate of a national organization.

With just over two weeks before this organization held its gala fundraiser, one of the honorees approached us with the request to shorten the long video the national organization had created and customize it to the NJ event.

The first challenge we confronted was that the material provided to us was in its final, compressed version – right for presentation on a DVD or the Internet, but not helpful for editing purposes.  This formatting meant that all the layers of visuals and audio were permanently compressed together, so any attempt to extract sound bites, for example, could cut off a musical score smack in the middle, or a preference for a different musical selection could not be accommodated since the audio was embedded in the original version.  With the inability to remove entrenched layers, the title cards naming individual speakers were also unalterably fixed.

We brainstormed with a key spokesperson for the nonprofit client who had strong opinions about some of the revisions and who sought help in figuring out how to accomplish those details given the challenges inherent in the video formatting. Here are the solutions we fashioned:

  1. We identified a core chunk of the original video that contained enough substantive quotes about the organization to paint a passionate picture of its importance without all the preceding or subsequent embellishment. This segment was under two minutes in length.
  2. We excised and maintained as a unit this core segment from the video, discarding the remainder. The in and outedits had to be made at spots where the music had natural interludes. The second or two of video tags on the bookends of the core were covered by black dissolves.
  3. We created a new title slate for a person whose position had changed since the time the first video was produced. In the original piece, titles appeared on opaque cards, which we could replicate. While we were not able to get information about the specific font that had been used, we were able to find one so similar that any differences would not be recognizable.  We created a new card and inserted it as a layer on top of the single, compressed layer, so that the correct title came up.
  4. We built a new opening with simple graphics tailored to the local affiliate. We wrote copy to provide a meaningful introduction and utilized archival black and white images that we had in our video library. (It helps that we also produce documentaries!) We added new music under this opening section. The intro was under a minute and ended with a fade to black that dovetailed – like the musical score — with the core section of the original video.
  5. We created a new closing that drew together the local and national using the music that had opened the piece, the graphics, and some stock photos descriptive of the larger message this shortened video (around three minutes) was expressing.

The final product was a big success at the gala, with the details of the editing surgery eluding the several hundred people who attended.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 5

December 5, 2011

Over the last several days I have detailed different types of corporate video productions that came out of one video initially envisioned by a CRM client to provide a “who we are” introduction from video captured at an annual customer event. We found that the extensiveness and nature of attendees provided material for three additional videos: a ‘core values” video, an employee video expressing enthusiasm about the nature of the work, and a testimonial video.

Now I am moving to videos we have created for nonprofits in the last few weeks, each of which presented unique challenges. The video I will address today was produced for a national organization. One of their members had ensured the realization of a mission abroad for which sparse video was shot, much of it not useable. The outcome of the trip was extremely positive on many levels, and the organization wanted to highlight its success at their annual fundraising gala in a film of three minutes or less. To complicate the task, we were asked to create the production only a little over two weeks or so before it needed to be screened at the event!

Despite the time and material constraints, we wanted to ensure that the video was more interesting than a narrator’s voice telling the audience what to think or a collection of sound bites without much additional context. After some brainstorming, we decided to focus on the four words that comprise the name of the organization, all of which are important descriptors of their mission. Our motion graphic artist created four separate slates, all opening with the organization’s logo, but in each, a different one of the four words popped out, providing the conceptual background to relevant sound bites that would follow for the next three-quarters of a minute (plus or minus). We then called together a handful of people who had participated in the mission, gathering them at one locale against a beautifully lit draped background, and we interviewed them in depth about the four topics we knew we would be highlighting. We also videotaped them interacting – encounters that were filled with warmth since they had all shared meaningful experiences on the trip together.

We pulled the best quotes and placed them appropriately behind the motion graphics leaders of each section. We used as much b-roll as we could muster from the footage shot on the trip and from the clips of the participants interacting the day we recorded them; with a dearth of choices from the former and a desire to touch emotions from the latter, we relied on slo-mo effects. We set all of this to relevant rights-free music, and voila! The final production told the story through the graphics and the sound bites, which were expressed with the kind of experiential passion that imparts genuineness. The three-minute film was a huge success at the gala and a source of pride to the participants and the organization.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 4

December 1, 2011

Testimonials have always been an important way to establish credibility. Their impact is greatly heightened when they are presented on video, giving viewers a chance to better evaluate speakers’ reliability by looking at them when they talk and listening to the tones in their voices.

But a testimonial video relating no more than general sentiments has little traction. Rather, it should ensure that the kudos expressed go to specific topics. What was the challenge that was solved? How was this company able to resolve it in a way that was particularly pleasing? Each experiential story will differ even if the subject company is the same, and it is the job of the interviewer to dig deeply enough to uncover the details that give weight to the comments and make them effective.

As a video producer, some of our clients retain us with the sole goal of creating testimonial videos. More often, however, we are called upon to produce a video on another topic, and as we become embroiled in the details, we recognize that opportunities exist to record, then later edit, short testimonial video web clips. This adds a lot of value to the client’s end product at a minimal cost: the extra videotaping is done when we are already present, and editing short video web clips, often focused only on the speaker and containing no more than a simple title card graphic, takes very little time (and therefore money) to produce.

The last few blogs in this column have focused on the video series V&V created for Infinity Info Systems, a CRM software service firm, which initially called us to videotape a customer event focused on the utilization of a particular software product, then to produce a “who we are” video (see Day 1 blog).

Additional video opportunities that became apparent during pre-production and field production led to the creation of a short video on Infinity’s core values (see Day 2 blog), the company’s expertise in the life sciences industry (see Day 3 blog), and a testimonial.

The testimonial was given by a customer of Infinity in the financial services industry. He talked about the challenge his company faced in running reporting  with the accumulation and storage of past, present and future investor data in various places. The challenge was solved by Infinity’s software and service CRM solutions, he says, which transformed the manual process into an efficient and accurate automatic one.

Given the respectability of the speaker, the genuineness of his comments, the fluidity of the sound bite, the details provided regarding the challenge he confronted, and the way Infinity is described as having found a solution that had a specific and beneficial outcome, the testimonial is a real winner. Whether a prospective customer is in the same or a different industry, if he or she identifies with the speaker’s CRM frustrations, this testimonial video web clip clarifies that a solution exists – and Infinity can deliver it.

When the video web clip is posted to youtube, we will update this blog to provide the link.